Rough. Soft. Forest

The sunshine streams through my large floor-to-ceiling windows. I am enjoying a cup of tea and a quiet moment when my baby is sleeping and all is peaceful in my heart and home.

I deeply appreciate these minutes of solitude. My mind is quiet and I pause, thanking G‑d for this point in time, when everything feels calm.

The silence is broken by the ringing of my phone. The screen proclaims, “BLOCKED CALL.”

I know what this means. It is a phone call from Chaim Boruch’s classroom.

I immediately put down my cup and my heart skips a beat. Seemingly, a part of me is always on edge.

But this phone call is one that changes my life in a magnificent way—a new piece placed into the puzzle of our journey with Chaim Boruch, a new window to the vast horizon that lies deep within his heart, soul and mind.

The teacher’s voice is full of excitement and energy and the words seem to tumble out all at once.

She places me on the phone with her classroom assistant, who explains in detail what occurred only moments before, while my son was in a mainstream third grade class, which he visits daily with his aid.

Once I got off the phone, tears streaming down my cheeks, I realized I couldn’t possibly recount the happenings of the morning. I immediately asked this most dedicated teacher to please share with me in writing what occurred, so I could hold onto it for life and recount this story of my special Chaim Boruch:

Dear Chana,

I would LOVE to retell the story of this morning. I was just telling my husband over dinner, and got goosebumps and tears all over again. Here it goes:

Chaim and I went into third grade like any other day. Today, though, as I had mentioned to Chaim the day before, and on the short walk to class, it was going to be a bit different in Mrs. Kenneray’s class this morning.

Chaim and I will be joining the third grade on their trip to Muir Woods, and two park rangers were visiting the class to get them prepared for the field trip. It was very exciting. We entered class, and the rangers immediately came over and introduced themselves, and handed us our Muir Woods packets. It was explained that we were going to break into groups of eight and observe an object from Muir Woods. The kids (and teachers) were not told what the items were. So we joined our group and waited anxiously to see what we were going to get. The item was placed on our table, and all the kids started ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

The first instruction in the packet was, “List three things you observe.” So the first thing I asked Chaim was, “How does it feel to you?” I let Chaim hold the object, and he turned it over and over, observing it like a real scientist. We had his iPad, so I asked Chaim, “What do you think? How does it feel to you?” He gave me his infectious smile and nodded his head “yes” with excitement. I helped him find the “describing” button, and together, we read through each button. He then, after careful consideration, touched the button “rough.” I was so excited, because the item was very rough on one side.

Then, to my amazement, he hit “soft” as well. I asked Chaim, “Are you sure you want ‘soft’ too? You told me ‘rough.’” He gave me the look of, “Yes, I’m very sure.” So to be sure I wasn’t misunderstanding him and writing his answer incorrectly, I had him do it again. But, like I should’ve known from the start, his answer was the same, “rough” and “soft.” (Just so you know, one side was very rough, and one side was very soft.)

Next, I asked, “What color is this?” Instantly, he went right to his “colors,” and chose “brown.” The item was all brown and only brown. The final question I asked was, “How does it smell?” Mind you, Chaim became very animated and was very excited to smell the object. So Chaim smelled it several times, and when he was ready, gave me once again his beautiful smile. I asked Chaim, “Ok, what do you smell when you put your nose really close?” I was very curious to see what he chose, but in hindsight, I once again should have known better.

He navigated to the “nature” button on his iPad and looked at the screen for just a moment, and then looked at me and smiled. He glanced down and chose the button for “forest”! Mind you, he didn’t choose it once, but three times to make sure I understood that when he smelled the object, he thought of the “forest.” My jaw hit the ground. I instantly got tears and hugged this amazing child, but yet again, I should not be amazed, because Chaim is a beautiful, wonderful, intelligent blessing to us all.

As always, it is my pleasure to work with and learn from our amazing Chaim!


Ashley (Mrs. Markovich)

P.S. The item was a piece of bark from a redwood tree.

I am in awe, overwhelmed with sheer admiration, wonder and respect for this brilliant little boy.

My heart is pounding within my chest, with even more love than I ever thought was possible to experience.

How does he know the scent of a forest? How would he know the texture of “soft”? Of “rough”? Of the combination of both? How is it that he knows the varying shades and colors of life?

How remarkable is it that he soaks up the hues and textures of the world around him, surprising and delighting us to our core?

I am left feeling so grateful, so proud, so humbled.

I am left without words.

I too remain in the silence of my mind, not uttering a sound, just like my little boy.

Yet my heart speaks volumes upon volumes. My soul plays louder than any symphony that ever existed.

Rough. Soft. Forest.

The sunshine streams through my large floor-to-ceiling windows, and I finish my cup of tea and close my eyes.

I use every sense within me, and smell the the scent of forest. A fresh fragrance of cedar, pine, leaves, moss and soil.

My fingers gently run along the rough and soft texture of bark from the gigantic redwood trees, eyes closed, all the while.

A chassidic master once asked his disciples, “If you find yourself lost in a forest, are you better off being lost while walking or while riding on a horse?”

One student replied, “Of course, you would be better off being lost while walking on foot, as you wouldn’t be as far lost to begin with, compared to one who was riding on a horse!”

The Rebbe replied with a smile, “It is better to be lost while riding a horse, because as soon as you realize you are lost, you can find your way back much faster.”

In other words, a person who strays so far from the path of Torah can return so quickly, if he has the energy and motivation.

Life is often like a forest, with “rough” patches and “soft” moments. We often get lost, find our way . . . and very often, get lost again.

My eyes remain closed, and I think of all that I need to do to re-route, re-discover, and remain close to the path, and which inner tools I need to find my way, ever more quickly.

It is my special journey with my son, in a forest of miracles, wonder and surprise.

I am right there with him.

Rough. Soft. Forest.

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